Friday, July 04, 2014

British naval failures; Ambivalent words; Galician government; & Muslims for Peace.

It really annoys some Spaniards that the British only remember their victories and conveniently forget their defeats. Especially if the latter were inflicted by the Spanish. For example, there was the failed attacks on Cádiz in 1797 and on Ferrol in 1800. And, before that, the attacks by Drake on La Coruña and on Lisbon in 1589. And then there was the humiliating defeat of the British fleet at Cartagena de Indias in 1741. Or somewhere like that; I can't really remember. What really drives all this anger, though, is not the apparent anti-British sentiment but very real resentment that Spanish kids aren't taught about these Spanish victories. All of which, by the way, amounted to beating off attackers, not defeating them on the open seas. Which is not to diminish them in any real way. The boys done well. And, in 1589, the British lost the chance to wrest naval supremacy from the Spanish until much later.

Here's another of those Spanish words which mean something very different in the female form - pendón. Apart from meaning banner, this means layabout or good-for-nothing in the masculine form but - what else? - tart or slut in the feminine form. Is there no end to these?

In retrospect, it wasn't a great idea to have my roof tiles replaced during the World Cup but who was to know the scaffolding was going to block the signal to my dish?

As I was leaving town on Tuesday night at 10 - to walk home to a non-viewable football match - there was a blackbird singing its throat out on the roof of the offices of the provincial administration. Can there be any more pleasant sound of an evening?

By the way, Pontevedra is blessed with the offices of the national, provincial and municipal administrations, all within spitting distance of each other on either side of the Alameda. Guess who the city's main employers are.

Talking of such things . . . The ex-President one of the Galician provincial administrations is in court on charges of nepotism and croneyism. Faced with the accusation of putting more than a hundred of his relatives in administrative positions, he responded that he'd thought there was nothing wrong with this and that it was perfectly normal. The chap employed a Personnel Manager, whose only task, it seems, was to take note of which job was to go to which of the President's relatives. Something of a cushy number, then.

Finally . . . Here's one of my favourite columnists on the Muslims for Peace non-movement:-

Moderate Muslims – it’s time to be outraged: David Aaronovitch

Why is there no Islamic peace movement? Because followers are too caught up feeling sorry for themselves as victims.

It is a hard enough thing to run away from home in Cardiff to become a warrior for the caliphate, it is quite another to do it from Melbourne. But in Australia too last week there were stories and photos of local Muslim boys who had somehow managed to travel half the circumference of the globe to take part in a conflict their surfing school-mates had probably never even heard of.

Reading about this in an Aussie paper in a coffee bar in Sydney I found myself wondering how this could have happened. Or, more precisely, why it doesn’t seem to happen for anyone who isn’t a Muslim. Coptic Christians from Ethiopia are not to be found trekking across the intervening desert to take up arms on behalf of their persecuted Egyptian brothers; 17-year-old Huddersfield Catholics and west London Greek Orthodox altarboys are not en route to Ukraine to take part in the struggle for Donetsk. If, God forbid, there were widespread violence in socialist Venezuela, I would not expect the Pilger battalion of British teen leftists to turn up, red-arm-banded, in Caracas. So why, Muslims might ask themselves, echoing Mario Balotelli, is it always us?

This is an awkward question both to pose and to answer, partly because there are so many people who are absolutely and easily convinced that they do know the reason. They assure me on Twitter most weeks that the problem is Islam as a faith. Uniquely among religions, they assert, Islam is literal not interpretative, and that means it is by nature aggressive, violent and fundamentalist.

I don’t believe this for a second. There is now and has always been dispute within Islam as to the meaning and application of texts. It is susceptible to reform and schism just as Christianity, Judaism and other religions and political credos have been. Furthermore, as a religion with 1.2 billion adherents, of whom well over 1.1 billion manage to make it through life without hefting an AK47, attending a training camp in Waziristan or watching a judicial amputation, the generalisation doesn’t tell you about how Islam is actually practised.

And yet the problem remains. In the 1950s and 1960s the insurgencies around the world were ideological or nationalistic. Whether it was by the Shining Path in Peru, the Maoists of Nepal or even the fascist bombers of Italian railway stations, people were being killed by rebels in the name of political ideas. But although killers such as Anders Breivik and Timothy McVeigh suggest the persistent potency of certain far-right ideologies, today’s victims of IEDs, car bombs and mass abductions are most likely to be killed — according to their killers — in the name of the Prophet.

There is no non-Muslim equivalent of what, until a few days ago was Isis but are now the forces of the self-appointed caliph Ibrahim. There isn’t a Christian Boko Haram. Pakistan is not convulsed by militant communists, but by its religious extremists in the local Taliban and other groups, who between them may have killed 50,000 people in the past ten years. There is no country that is not Muslim that attempts to enforce sanctions for apostasy or has the death penalty for blasphemy. Vaccinators are not being assassinated by Jews, nor voters having their fingers chopped off by Baptists.

Again, it’s obvious that most Muslims do none of these things. They want to eat good food, lead decent, peaceful lives and watch their children grow up. And, in fact, ordinary Muslims are by far the biggest casualties of the jihadis and the zealots of apostasy. Pakistani Shia are massacred by Sunni extremists; Sunni civilians are snatched by Iraqi Shia death squads; the Syrian civil war has seen as many as 170,000 deaths in three years. By contrast the past 25 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accounts for just under 10,000.

What is therefore doubly curious about this is the lack of a sense of Muslim outrage about what some other Muslims are doing. Who, for example, protests about the death penalty in many parts of the United States? Well, people in the United States and other western countries do. Judicial execution has been abolished in almost all formerly Christian countries despite its explicit sanction in the Bible.

Who complains about creationism being taught in schools? Among others, many Christians do. Is any campaign against Israeli actions complete without a complement of not-in-my-name Jews? Hardly, and that’s a healthy thing. By far the most effective critics of an action or a policy are those on the inside.

Yet I must have missed the sense of Muslim outrage at, for example, the Sultan of Brunei’s adoption of the most medieval form of Sharia, or at the persecution of religious (including Muslim) minorities in ostensibly Muslim countries.

It isn’t that some Muslim organisations aren’t trying. The two most recent campaigning statements of the Muslim Council of Britain concern condemnation of jihadi recruitment for Isis and female genital mutilation. They deserve credit for that.

But it is obvious that this self-policing isn’t what floats the boat of Muslims politically. There’ll be the occasional good statement, but if, say, Israel bombs Gaza, then suddenly social media will fill up with Islamic outrage, careful commentators will become passionate, marchers will hit the streets. Why is there no Muslim Peace Movement campaigning for an end to violence in Muslim countries, where the victims are Muslims and the perpetrators are Muslims? Where it might make the most difference.

A couple of weeks ago listeners heard a depressing report from Bradford. Sima Kotecha, the BBC correspondent, was interviewing young Pakistani-British boys about Iraq. Would they go and fight for Isis or other groups? “I would go. They’re brothers,” said one. “You’re going to live as a Muslim, die as a Muslim, innit?” said another.

There is at work here what can only be called a victim mentality — paradoxical given the power and size of Islam — which casts Muslims as being eternally oppressed and eternal victims.

This week the supreme leader of Iran, arguably the most powerful Muslim religious leader in the world, tweeted his “analysis of recent events in the region”. Point 1 was: “Main enemy: security and intelligence services of the West.” Point 2 was their tactics: “Sowing sectarian conflicts”, launching proxy wars and “fabricating forged alternatives of Islam”. Neither he nor any other Muslim had any real responsibility for any of it.

A fantasy of victimhood is difficult enough when it enchants just a nation. When it enthrals a world religion it is terrifying.


Sierra said...

The 10 o'clock match was on local TV, as is Friday's (Telecinco) and one of the matches on Saturday (TV4 or 5).

Picked up the other match online via Chrome browser with Hola extension and BBC player said...

You can perhaps get some insight into these burning question by talking to some actual Muslims. Yourself. said...

"burning questions," I mean.

Colin Davies said...

Not sure what you're saying here, Rebekah. As they say in the market research business, a research sample of one is useless. Which would also apply to me speaking to a fw muslim friends. I'd have to speak to hundreds - if not thousands - of both Sunni and Shia muslims to get anywhere near a bottom-up representative sample of billions of fellow religionists. And the writer, I think, was making a top-down observation of what muslims are (not) doing in the face of islamic terrorism, not of what they might be thinking.

Incidentally, I've just listened to 4 muslims discussing apostasy and the death penalty demanded by the Q'oran. Not a lot of agreement between them, making it rather hard to know what Islam says on the subject.

Colin Davies said...

Don't have local TV, Sierra, but the andamios have now gone and the TV seems OK. Except when it rains. Thanks God this hardly happens here in Galicia!

Alberto MdH said...

In fact, the Spaniards also had victories on offense. The problem is that the complainers (which usually have a very superficial knowledge of history) not known them. Some examples:

Fernando Sánchez de Tovar
Battle of Cornwall
Action of 9 August 1780
Capture of the Bahamas (1782)

Of course, the British got the last hit in Trafalgar, Spain subsequently joined the alliance against Napoleon (without further hostilities in the last 200 years) and the Spanish Empire collapsed shortly afterwards (although the main cause was their structural deficiencies)

Taking a little beyond the subject, I find the complaints ridiculous. What obligation does the British education system to teach victories in other countries? (which, on the other hand are unknown in Spain)

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Alberto. How about this, sent to me by a Spanish friend:

Alberto MdH said...

Well, that is an example of the current crop of political nuts in Spain (The most renowned of them is Pablo "Pigtails" Iglesias) The alternatives are so dismal that sometimes i discover myself thinking that our current politicians are not so bad... sometimes. The note itself is just a lot of bullshit.

Regarding the Gibraltar question... well, there are two mayor problems that remain unresolved: Territorial waters and ownership of the Isthmus (The money laundering dispute is mostly resolved from my point of view) Those should be addressed, but the claims of sovereignty, today, are absurd. The best thing Spain can  do is to stick to the terms of the treaty of Utrecht.

And regarding alliances, They say that Lord Palmerston once said that "Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests" and for me the future remains as uncertain as ever, but in my opinion Spain would be far better of in alliance with Britain than with the likes of China or Russia (or Argentina)

But as they say, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.